The wheeling and dealings that turned the once mighty Gaborone United Sporting Club from a position of football power and professionalism to the shadows of regress and relegation could have never been predicted. STAFF WRITER, MOSIMANEGAPE TSHOSWANE sees the club’s kingpins shifting sands to control the club’s once bold investor, Nicholas Zakhem, who unfortunately never saw his grip diminishing.
Gaborone United was once the envy of other premier league teams. But nobody saw the popularity of the club fading away as internal blood wars gradually ate away the soul of Moyagoleele. In the permitting impressive years of 2010 and 2011, GU had opened an insurmountable gap between itself and other elite clubs in as far as football commercialisation is concerned.
A committee chaired by the brains of Dr Nkomazana was to later study and comprehend strategies and all modalities that were to enable GU house to stand forever. Among others, the GU constitution was amended and an entity called Soccer Dynamics was instituted as a vehicle driving the commercial wing of the team.
Through it, business guru, Nicholas Zakhem was the majority shareholder with 51 percent while the remaining 49 percent was given to the club’s society, Gaborone United. All was set and done as GU was an instant marvel both in the boardroom and on the field of play. This is the reason the memory of the team’s 2010 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League performance is still alive and vivid to those who love the club with unbridled passion.
No any other GU’s die hard follower will forget the club’s historic battle against South Africa’s power house Orlando Pirates. The club had also brought in the auspicious mettle of one Tymon Katholo, as the President to bolster a team well versed with football administration. But eight years from now, GU’s cross town rivals Township Rollers have knocked The Reds off their perch. GU is instead, a picture of exasperation that is walking through storms of debts and regrets.
While it is increasingly becoming difficult to put together the fall of The Reds, all football conspiracy theories point to a heavy fall out amongst GU’s file and rank kingpins. Rather, it is slightly common knowledge that in the winter of 2015, elections happened. They could not further tighten the team’s football ambition, but instead triggered the team’s fall from the dizzy highways.
Until now, nobody at the heart of Moyagoleele knows exactly what happened between the saviour Katholo and the messiah Zakhem — all information of the club point fingers of blame towards ballooning egos clash between the two men. Zakhem is a man whom many of his critics have always questioned his football exploits. But what is not in doubt is that he has transformed GU from a mediocre club to a championship material. He managed to pay the best players in the League and went on to win several championships.
Those close to him believe that he is a good schemer who knows how to maneuver the unpredictable football terrain such that most football administrators do not like crossing his path. There is rumour in the football circles that he has never lost a football matter especially those involving the fight for players.
On the other hand, Katholo is regarded as one of the shrewdest administrators in local football although of late he has seen his hands dipped in GU blood. His admirers credit him with honesty, principle and fairness. But this is a man who has investigated Zakhem while working as DCEC chief. As the team was rattled by alleged election rigging in 2015, Katholo later emerged as a lead character of a group that filed a case of defamation against Zakhem.
It is stated on several platforms that the two men are two poles apart in the running of GU. Katholo stood for the position of chairmanship but lost to Okaile Rapula. He is now leading beleaguered GU as an ‘elder’ of the club. Despite his perceived strained relationship with Zakhem, mostly arising from the football politics, many still believe that he is a man who acts on facts. But others continue to question his integrity as an elder of the club.
It is further feared that this apparent attitude if not addressed will cost GU many silverware. Ironically, Katholo as an elder of GU is expected to come face to face with Zakhem to negotiate better terms for the club to return to glory. On Monday of this week, the business mogul expressed his interest in working with whoever is running the club. It remains to be seen if Katholo and co will open their hearts to accommodate Zakhem lest it will be a marriage of convenience.
GU faces a precarious situation they never confronted before. They stand of the brink of collapse should they fail to pay sacked player P400 000. It is either relegation or Zakhem! The current Secretary General of the club co-opted by elder’s committee, Kennedy Ramojela argues that there is no rift between Katholo and Zakhem. He is of the view that elders want proper procedures to be followed for Zakhem to rejoin the team he says he adores the most.
“It is a perception that the two men are not seeing eye-to-eye. Elders want procedures to be followed to the letter for Zakhem to come again on board,” he said. GU is currently toying with the idea of renegotiating with Chippa United where its two players have been purchased. The initial agreement was that Chippa was to pay in installments until next year June.
It was agreed that P 200 000 be paid after registration is finally completed. The second installment, which is P 500 000 is expected to be dropped in December while the last P 500 000 will be completed in June of next year. GU badly needs this money to retrace the redemption road. Zakhem in the meantime is watching as the clock ticks.
Amid the confusion surrounding the date of the Botswana Football Association (BFA) elections, the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, met with three presidential candidates on Thursday morning to discuss a plethora of problems bedevilling the domestic game.
The candidates are Maclean Letshwiti, the current President, Tebogo Sebego, the firm challenger of the BFA throne, together with Ookeditse Malesu who enters the race for the first time in his sporting career. There were other two unnamed officials who are said to be representatives from the sport ministry.
The Sport minister is said to have adopted a hard-nosed approach to register his disappointment and worry that the uncertainty of the upcoming elections have injured the administration of the local game.
Highly placed sources at the Sport ministry say that the minister’s ‘no gloves barred’ approach comes at the behest of the BFA’s constant negative headlines regarding their leadership style as of going into the elections.
It is said that Rakgare was also worried that the current administration is keeping the other two camps in the dark regarding the planning and processes bordering on election issues. This, he said has led to unnecessary speculations and back biting that is not needed to lift the game at a time when it is on its knees.
He was to rattle a few feathers at one incident when he called all the three leaders of the game to put their houses in order. As if that was not enough, the minister called on the three lobby groups to desist from serving personal interests but put focus on developing the game.
Interestingly, sources point out that the minister was livid but urged both Letshwiti and Sebego groups to refrain from tarnishing the good image of the ministry. This, he said in response to wide ranging allegations that he is taking sides as campaigns are ongoing.
The Sebego group accuses him of de campaigning Sebego and having a soft spot for Team Letshwiti while the same Letshwiti group is saying the same thing about the minister as having taking curious interest in Sebego camp.
The minister is alleged to have told the leaders that if they do not change their leadership style of protecting those looting public funds, his ministry would intervene even if it means attracting the wrath of FIFA, which is known for its notorious sanctions when countries do not toe the line. He urges BFA to be accountable at all the times they will cut the annual subventions that goes to them, sources claim.
This is not for the first time that the BFA was lectured on good governance. At one incident in 2015, former Minster of Sport Thapelo Olopeng dressed down the then Tebogo Sebego leadership regarding good governance.
BFA was at the time closely monitored by the ministry. Instead of the usual transactions that normally go through BFA, national team players received their allowances straight from government in the form of cheques. To demonstrate that government has taken a firm stand against BFA, players’ allowances were no longer routed through the association.
Nobody from the said meeting will address this publication enquiry all indicating that the consultation is never meant for public consumption.
If everything goes according to plan, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) will hold its annual general assembly next month through a virtual conference.
There has been much uncertainty as to how and when the congress will be held seeing as how COVID-19 protocols remain stringent on gatherings.
Sources speaking with this publication say the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the association has agreed to hold the congress within COVID-19 zones, consequently dispelling all the lingering doubts surrounding the life and soul of the assembly.
As it stands, there are nine COVID -19 zones in Botswana. The association is therefore contemplating to rely within four zones where live streaming will take centre stage for the first time in the history of BFA elections.
The congress was first billed for August 8th but was postponed to August 22nd. However, the second date could not see the light of the day as the country recorded a second rise of coronavirus cases that promptly led to greater Gaborone going into yet another lockdown.
The association has been procrastinating over the virtual congress idea with the election agenda remaining a sticky issue. Many advices came flooding that the association is free to make any decision about the congress but should be very careful not to compromise the integrity of the vote.
Sources indicate to this paper that the association is likely to rely on four COVID-19 zones, namely Gaborone, Francistown, Jwaneng and Palapye. The need to plant the meeting on virtual technologies hinges on the fact that the COVID -19 health protocols do not permit people to cross zones to hold meetings.
Information gleaned from various sources is that the association is looking to rely on four zones primarily because of the limited number of personnel under the electoral board. There are five members consisting of this committee and by the look of things; the association will not be allowed to outsource more election overseers at the eleventh hour. Sources argue that the whole cautious exercise is meant to avoid complaints that may arise after elections are held.
The virtual meeting comes after many failed attempts by the association to convince the Kereng Masupu led Task Force to give out a special dispensation. On many occasions, the Task Force refused to allow for the assembly to go on saying “football is not a priority.”
The assembly is expected to be held next month but the exact date still remains a subject of speculation. In the end, Tebogo Sebego will stand again for the second time to unseat Maclean Letshwiti while Ookeditse Malesu is standing for the first time to try and wrestle for BFA power.
The Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Tumiso Rakgare, is eager to lead crunch talks that will consequently see Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) and Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) becoming one authoritative sport entity.
The appointment of one Tuelo Serufho to the plum position of BNSC Chief Executive Officer two week ago has further catalysed the intention to merge the sports bodies to avoid the long standing complaints of duplication of roles by the two.
Serufho was replacing Falcom Sedimo whose contract was not renewed.Serufho, ironically is the longest serving CEO of BNOC and also a board member of BNSC.“One of our aims is to form a robust sport body to centralize and improve decision making processes and maybe the time to resuscitate BNSC/BNOC merger is now,” Rakgare briefly shared.
The impending move is highly meant to improve effective functioning, governance and performance of sports in the country both locally and globally.Should this see the light of day, Botswana would have done itself a favour and it would start sending a handful of athletes to international competitions.
The amalgamation of BNSC/BNOC talks have been in the pipelines but discussions were aborted two years ago without clear reasons. The creation of this all-encompassing sport institution is overdue according to the minister.
“It is in fact our mandate to make sure this happens, it is overdue and by next year we hope to have finalised our position paper,” Rakgare added.The creation of the looming body is borne out of lessons learnt from various sports governance models around the world.
In South Africa, the sports ministry facilitated discussions to merge National Olympic Committee of South Africa (NOCSA) and the South African Sports Commission. Their authoritative sports body is now called South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
With the South African model well in place, Botswana is urged to bench mark and create a sport body as a civic society-based organisation as required by the statutes of international sports bodies.The name of the local sport body is mooted and the minister refused to give a hint. But he is optimistic that the body will be the vanguard organization of sport in the country.
He emphasized that the sports organisation should be a purposeful guardian for governance and management of sports and be the required defining figure of the role of sports in Botswana’s communities.Talks to revamp and rebuild these sports bodies come at a time when BNSC is restructuring.
When Sedimo was still at the helm, he wanted to phase out some positions which he felt were unnecessary.BNSC receive close to 53 million Pula as grants from the government through the Ministry of Youth, Sports development and Culture empowerment while BNOC takes a figure a closer to that.